Philippians - Lesson 7

By Curt Niccum

Philippians 2:19-30


  1. The class will express the value of having spiritual mentors in the church.
  2. The class will identify the qualities of Timothy and Epaphroditus that make them like Christ and therefore worthy of imitation.
  3. The class will identify these same characteristics within the congregation's leadership.


  1. Bibles for every student.
  2. If devotional period is desired, you may need songbooks and to designate people for singing, praying, and scripture reading.


In 2:19-30, Paul refers to Timothy and Epaphroditus as further examples of exercising the mind of Christ. He challenges the church to imitate Christ as they see him in those two men. 

Lesson Plan for Conducting the Class

Devotional Period (5 minutes)

  1. Read Philippians 2:29
  2. Sing up to two songs. (The following are suggested tunes.)
    1. Faith of Our Fathers
    2. Living by Faith
    3. Lead Me to Calvary
  3. Prayer. (Some appropriate subjects for prayer are listed below.)
    1. Thanks for good Christian leadership in the church
    2. For us to see Christ in those around us
    3. For our missionaries and those around the world who risk their lives for the sake of Christ and his gospel

Introduction (5-10 minutes)

  1. Call the roll or have someone check it. (It is very important to know who is present so someone can check on those who are absent.) Introduce and welcome visitors, take prayer requests, and make any necessary announcements.
  2. Review the last lessons.
    1. Up to this point in the letter to the Philippians, Paul has tried to impress upon the church the need to imitate Christ, particularly in the area of sacrificing self for the benefit of others. A review of the presentation thus far will prepare us for what comes next.
      1. Q: In chapter one, who did Paul use as an example of how to make Christ-like decisions in less than desirable circumstances and in making the right choices for the future? A: He used himself as an example. Q: Where is Paul when he writes this? A: In Rome under house arrest.
      2. Q: In 2:1-11, who did Paul use as an example? A: Jesus. Q: Where is Jesus, according to 2:9, when this letter was written? A: Exalted (in heaven).
      3. Q: In 2:12-18, Paul alluded to citizens in God's kingdom from what time period? A: The time of the Old Testament, specifically the period of the wilderness wanderings. Q: Where are they when this letter was written? A: Long gone. (Some might answer that many of those are in hell and some are in heaven. The teacher should avoid getting into that area of discussion. For the sake of this lesson, the important point is that they are no longer living on earth.)
    2. Q: So, up to this point, have all of the examples been remote or close to the Philippians? A: Remote. Now their remoteness does not lessen their importance, but Paul also sees the need for providing more direct examples of the Christ-like life for the congregation to follow. In 2:19-30, Paul fills this need by presenting two men as worthy of imitation: Epaphroditus, the bearer of this letter, and Timothy, Paul's representative who will be sent to Philippi as soon as possible.

Learning Experiences (20 minutes)

  1. Paul has already established the pattern to be followed. He now wants to make it clear that living this pattern is something very real. It is not too farfetched to imagine people even today saying something like, "Well, that was something Jesus could do, because he was God's son, and something Paul could do, because he was an Apostle, but certainly God does not expect someone like me to live that way.” Paul, with the next two examples, makes it clear that this life can and should be lived by all heavenly citizens.
  2. Have the class read 2:19-24. Ask them to look for similarities in thought and language to what was written earlier in the Philippian letter.
    1. Q: What do we find in the description of Timothy that compares to what Paul has already said of himself and Christ in this letter?
      1. A: No one else like him (this is closely related to the Greek word translated "Being one in spirit,” 2:2), vs. 20.
      2. He takes a genuine interest in the welfare of others, specifically the Philippians, vv. 20-21 (compare 1:25 and 2:3-4)
      3. He has served the work of the gospel, vs. 22 (compare 1:12).
    2. Q: What is Paul's reason for planning to send Timothy? A: So he can hear the good news about the church in Philippi. Q: Is Paul being selfish here? A: No. He has already explained how his situation, viewable as lamentable by many, has actually accomplished great things for the kingdom. Therefore he rejoices and wants them to rejoice with him (2:17-18). He knows that in his absence, Timothy will truly represent Christ to the Philippians, and he knows that the Philippians will resolve these issues and be a cause of rejoicing in the Lord for him as well.
  3. Have the class read 2:25-30.
    1. Q: What do we find in the description of Epaphroditus that compares to what Paul has already said of himself and Christ in this letter?
      1. A: Fellow worker, fellow soldier, vs. 25. (This is in line with all Paul has said about being one [see especially 2:2]. All through this letter Paul uses compound Greek words that have the preposition "with” incorporated in them in order to stress this unity. Fellow worker and fellow soldier, literally "fellow with” and "soldier with,” continue this pattern.)
      2. Your messenger whom you sent to take care of my needs, vs. 25. Literally this reads "your apostle and minister.” Here Epaphroditus is described in terms of apostleship (mission) and ministry (related to the same word Paul uses of his ministry in 2:17).
      3. He longs for all of you, vs. 26 (compare 1:8 and 2:4).
      4. Almost died for the work of Christ, vv. 26-27 and 30 (compare 1:20 and 2:8).
    2. Q: What is Paul's reason for planning to send Epaphroditus? A: To give the Philippians joy and so he might be less anxious about the Philippian church. Here, again, Paul focuses on his concern for the Philippians and that which will be of benefit to them.
  4. Q: Can you understand, then, why Paul states that people (the word "men” is not in the Greek) such as these should be honored? A: Yes. Living examples encourage and assist others trying to lead the life of the cross.

Application (10 minutes)

  1. The previous class applications have hit hard the challenge of living the life of the cross. For this lesson, it would be good to focus on the victories that have been attained by the congregation.
  2. Ask the class members to share the names of people in the congregation who exhibit the life of the cross. Encourage the telling of stories that would illustrate this for the class.
    1. Plan to spend a good deal of time on this. Giving honor to whom it is due should never be shortchanged.
    2. It is a shame that we usually wait until a person's death before we extol his or her walk with God. Understandably, Christians fear that receiving honor might jeopardize their reward in heaven. That, however, was not Jesus' point in the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus berated those doing good solely for the purpose of gaining praise. The purpose of this exercise is not to gain praise but to give it. Every congregation has spiritual giants whose stories go oft untold and examples oft unnoticed. The younger Christians need to see, know, and follow the examples of great Christian men and women.
  3. Considering Philippians 1:1, church leadership is crucial for maintaining unity, even in situations not created by false teaching or gross sin. Q: In light of the first two chapters of Philippians studied so far, what type of people should be chosen for elders and deacons? What qualities should they exhibit?

Assignment (1 minute)

  1. Each class member should read 3:1-11.
  2. Encourage the members to be watchful through the week and to make a list of the things that the world puts confidence in, especially along the lines of having the "confidence in the flesh” that Paul speaks of in chapter 3.

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